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YA Librarians Honor Homophobe Writer, Stir Hornet's Nest

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The Young Adult Library Services Association presented its annual Margaret A. Edwards Award to science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card last week, paying tribute to the ways in which his novel Ender's Game and its follow-up Ender's Shadow fulfill the Edwards Award mandate of "helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world." (No mention, sadly, of Speaker for the Dead, the immediate sequel to Ender's Game.) Card's selection kicked up some controversy, however, due to his extreme views on homosexuality. As School Library Journal, which co-sponsors the award, summarizes the debate, "If a well-known author writes and speaks about gays and lesbians in a way that many interpret to be anti-gay, should he be given an award that honors his outstanding lifetime contribution to writing for teens?"

Just so you have a sense of what I'm talking about when I say "extreme views," here's an excerpt from one of Card's articles:

"Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society."

The awards committee has responded to the criticism that followed from last week's announcement by arguing that a writer's personal beliefs shouldn't be held against his writing?a perfectly reasonable position on the surface, and one that many science-fiction fans have adopted over the years (and not just with Card). On the other side of the issue, YA author David Levithan told SLJ, "I would like to believe that the Edwards committee would not have honored someone who had written essays that were as racist or as anti-Semitic as Card's are anti-gay."

When it comes to the Edwards's goal of honoring writers who help teens sort through their place in the world, Levithan adds, "I think Card's writings on homosexuality do the exact opposite of that." So can a batch of articles cancel out a storyline that's been popular (in several volumes) for more than 20 years? Even if the awards committee had known about Card's views beforehand, which they say they didn't, it would appear not: The Edwards Award is described by its administrators not just as a tribute to a writer's "lifetime contribution to young adult literature," but "it also singles out specific works by that author for special recognition."

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He views individual homosexuals as "human beings with as complex a combination of good and evil in them as I find within myself". Speaking of tolerance, he says "That we must treat sinners kindly is true; that we must courageously and firmly reject sin is also true." Thus he condemns the behaviour but equally condemns violence against those practising it: "I think there is no room in America for violence directed against any group (or any individual) for any reason short of immediate defense against physical attack -- which doesn't often come up with homosexuals."

"as I find within myself" - I kinda have the suspicions he's one of those 'fighting it'. He may feel that the only way to preserving his 'success' is to actively fight against the source of confusion.

He shares the same views as the Catholic church. Why not say, "treat sinners kindly, they're the ones going to burn in hell anyway"?

The last statement is stereotyping. He's calling us weak and not worth the effort. :hehe:

Finally, I find it strange that he got the idea of the 'ansible' in his stories from Ursula LeGuin - who, though not outspoken about it, is very accepting of homosexuals and sexual deviation in general.

It rankles for him to be given an award for the youth literature for sure, but he's blinded. But even though I've never read any of his works, I think he deserves it. The books singled out do not seem to tackle any topic about homosexuality. So I say, he grew up in a homophobic age, he can't help it. :lol: Let him have the goddarn award.

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I'm reading Ender's Game now, because three authors here recommended it so highly.

Orson Scott Card is a prominent and prolific science fiction writer and editor and literary critic. He's very popular, and it's deserved.

His personal opinions are separate from that work. For example, I don't happen to be a fan of some of Heinlein's views, but as a boy, I loved his supposedly "juvenile" science fiction.

Whether Card is "gay and in denial," I don't see a need to say publicly, although I have my own private opinion. Only he knows for sure.

Writers worth their salt will also write about their own opinions. We may not agree with them, but they had the courage to stick their necks out and say what they thought, for everyone to read. That takes guts.

I am comfortable with liking someone's writing, even if I don't agree with his or her personal views.

Should he get an award? Well, I'm not on the awards committee, so I don't really have a say. But since I'm outspoken enough to say something, how about this? Most teens are going to read his fiction and anthologies he's edited, before they ever look at his personal opinions, and most who do will either separate the two, or decide for themselves (as they should!) how they feel about him as a writer versus a private and opinionated individual.

Taken another way, what if we see a brief summary of what I've read so far of Ender's Game.

A gifted young boy with a bully for an older brother and a loving older sister is chosen for a special school to train people to fight back the impending invasion by hostile aliens, whose previous attack severely damaged humanity's only star system and homeworld.

The boy is put in with other boys in a sort of military prep school. (There are very few girls.) The boys have little adult supervision in the dorms, and how they get along and what they do is met with in a matter of fact way. (Oh, cool off, they sleep nude, but only one boy has a high opinion of his natural endowment.) But some of the friendships formed can be seen as either straight or perhaps gay and not quite saying so. One boy is clearly a close friend, and whether they feel more than friendship is up to the reader to decide. The one significant girl character at the school is more skilled than most of the boys, and tough but feminine in unexpected ways. That is hardly one of the main themes of the book, though friendship and brotherhood are threads running all through the book. The boy, Ender, has to find his own way through life, including how to choose friends.

One of the first things Ender learns is that, even though he doesn't like violence, he can hurt others, whether he means to or not. One of the main themes is humankind's warlike nature, the tendency to fight among ourselves, in any venue, even when there are outside forces that endanger the whole group.

The major themes require more thought, as presented in the story, for the reader to grapple with them. Life's confusing, some people are friends while others are unreliable or not friends, and you must decide for yourself what is right or wrong and what you will do and won't do to get through life.

That's suitable reading for a teen.

Read and decide for yourself. No critic is much good before that.

(I'm near the middle of the book. My thoughts: There are two ways out: (1) Through; (2) Make your own way.)

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Y'know, for such a homophobe, his book "Songmaster" sure was gay. In the sense that it was about a young boy who was apparently so beautiful that every man who heard him sing fell in love with him. It was also kinda creepy. Well, whatever.

After reading OSC's old opinion articles a couple years ago, I realized that he was a total ass and that we agreed on pretty much nothing. But that's cool. He's still one of my favorite writers. I've read the Ender series (and Shadow series) through so many times that I can almost recite it from memory, and Speaker for the Dead still manages to make me tear up every time. Even his crazy "right wing good guys fight left-wing lunatics in an American Civil War" book held my attention (and anybody who know my political leanings knows that that's pretty impressive). His books on writing are really good, too.

The way I see it, you've got to be able to separate the artist from the art, 'cause when it comes down to it, artists are human, and humans usually have at least one trait that everyone else finds reprehensible. If we only credit works by those with the highest virtues (as judged by who?), we'd have to toss out quite a bit of our culture.

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"If we only credit works by those with the highest virtues (as judged by who?), we'd have to toss out quite a bit of our culture."

You know, one could put a lot of variation in that sentence and have it still be very true.

If we only credit : medical advances : by those with the highest virtues...

If we only credit : political action : by those with the highest virtues...

If we only credit : schooling : by those with the highest virtues...

If we only credit : altruistic actions : by those with the highest virtues...

I think it is important to recognize that actions count. Regardless of what someone may believe, if their works and actions stand on their own merits, we should be happy to have them. Just my opinion.

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Another side of the coin, however, is this: won't many people who don't like to do much thinking for themselves, and there are a few of those around, allow themselves to fall into the trap of thinking, because a man can write, he must be smart, so if he has bigoted views, mustn't there be some intelligence behind his bigotry? Therefore, isn't it acceptable if I hold the same values? He's certainly smarter and more learned than I can ever aspire to be, so I'm sure I'm on safe groud believing what he believes.

And as much of his writing is for young people, isn't it possible his views can serve to pollute their psyches? If they admire him?

Separation of the art from the artist is a noble and mature view.

But there's some good in calling a bigot a bigot, too.

I don't know him, not ever having read any of his material, or seen any articles about him. But from the tenor of this conversation, it seems apologies are being extended for his rather basic intolerance of gays, if indeed that is a true attitude he professes. That makes me very uncomfortable.

I think progress has been made in the past decade towards reducing intolerance and isolating those who preach and practice it. I think, by culling those individuals from the herd and shining the light of societal censure on them, that progress has been greater than at any other time in my history. I myself think that's a very good thing.

C

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And as much of his writing is for young people, isn't it possible his views can serve to pollute their psyches? If they admire him?

I read his books religiously when I was a kid, and I most definitely admired him. I still admire him, as far as writing goes. I had no idea he was a homophobe until years later, in college. Those views don't come through in his books - only in his (rather obscure) political opinion articles and essays. And, really, if the kids are mature enough to seek out and slog though dull political essays, they're probably mature enough to think for themselves.

I don't know him, not ever having read any of his material, or seen any articles about him. But from the tenor of this conversation, it seems apologies are being extended for his rather basic intolerance of gays, if indeed that is a true attitude he professes. That makes me very uncomfortable.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to say that his views aren't offensive, or that they're less offensive because he's got talent. But, at the same time, does the fact that the man's a bigot make his books any less compelling?

The award isn't honoring his religious beliefs and his ridiculous opinion articles; it's honoring his novels. Specifically, Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. I've read them dozens of times (both before and after learning of Card's personal views), and I have yet to find anything remotely intolerant. In fact, seeking an acceptance of those who are different from one's self and being open to other cultures are overarching themes of the Ender series (I mean, come on - "Speaker for the Dead" was the artistic equivalent of Card standing on a soapbox and shouting "DON'T BE JUDGMENTAL AND AFRAID OF OTHER CULTURES JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THEM!" over and over again).

The man is a tremendous jackass, but the books have good messages.

I completely understand the other side, however - all your points are valid, and I agree with you on most of them.

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I must step forward and defend Mr. Card. He is a Mormon but he doesn't hate homosexual specifically. It is against his faith and as such that's what he believes. That's his opinion.

However he has written a very interesting book with a lead gay character called "Songmaster" as I recollect which I highly recommend.

I have over the years spoken to Mr. Card on a number of instances and he's not a hateful person. He believes homosexuality is wrong based on his religious beliefs but he's never said anything bad or done anything bad or spoken out against any individual gay person. Honestly, he's a very tolerant person -- perhaps you should visit his website and listen to what he has to say before passing judgement.

I stand by Mr. Card and his writings. SO SHOULD YOU.

(edited to add URL)

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I certainly don't.

I just realized how eerily like him we are sounding. LOL. We're all basically saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin."

He may or not deserve it, but one thing I do know is that I really hate it when religion twists people into something like Card.

I hate the way they always hide the streak of arrogance and cruelty in false humility and piety. As if the blanket of religion gives him the right to pass judgment on everything. He claims to not be a homophobe and is obviously not pro-gay at all. So what is he? Like everyone else of his kind, he probably believes everything he says is direct from his deity's mouth. Religion has a way of making men feel threatened by everything. It feeds on fear, guilt, and anger. It sucks to see a good man wasted by something like this. :abduct[1]:

I'm atheist, obviously. Heh. I have my own ideas of what is "sin", and it's far less judgmental and ignorant. :raccoon:

Sorry if I offend some people. /me stomps off

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Take your Tylenol NOW!

I know not the Card of whom you all write, but I have seen the references and ponder thus, not that I profess any great insight, just thoughts that occur to me, on this subject .

A man and his adopted beliefs may be segregated in order to perform works that do not violate those beliefs.

Just how much violation, is a matter of balance for personal conscience. The balance is lost where corruption and innocence are no longer propositioned by the author or allowed by him.

I cannot help but feel that we have had this discussion before in another guise.

Does a person have to have committed a murder to write a murder story?

Does a man have to have direct experience to write about a subject, or can the writing be an extrapolation, a conjecture, albeit tainted by wishful, thinking or experience.

Quality of wring is not the issue here however much we might like to maintain that creative quality is directly influenced by experience. The fact remains that there are large areas of knowledge that are as yet, unfathomed. It stands to reason that our beliefs (adopted or deduced) do indeed affect what we do, how we say it and what we say.

Rational deduction of events rather than their prevarication places the author in a bind to ignore his beliefs for the sake of relative truth, even if at the end of the day the beliefs are used to substantiate their own existence, or that of a postulation.

It is where the written work contains surreptitious references that accidentally sway the reader from rational thought that we should worry. So long as the reader is allowed, even encouraged to question what he reads then such references should be self-evident (hopefully.)

If the references are deliberate and successfully cause the readers to abandon their rational faculty of inquiry then we should have been reading much more carefully, more questioningly. :raccoon:

But the subterfuge of purpose of such books abound even where the author is unaware of it.

I am not talking here of "red herrings" in a mystery who dun it; that is a plot device. But rather of those authors who see a novel as way to put forward an argument to convince people of a belief or idea or a position of conscience.

The better authors do not argue to convince, but to offer a discussion with open insight from which the reader may benefit in consideration of new thoughts or new ways to think about such thoughts, even when the book is a work of fiction.

Does any of this apply to Mr. Card?

I don't know, but I would be wary to the possibilities that some of these points might apply.

His faith and sexuality are not issues unless they are acting in a surreptitious manner as described above.

Gays and straights have acted both kinds of characters without feeling the need to proclaim their preference, though admittedly some are better at it than others. :bunny:

:abduct[1]:

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I don't read it the same way, I guess. I may be mistaken in my reading and understanding of what he is saying, but here is what I think he said, in a hugely roundabout way. I am going to try to condense it in my own way, so it may not (likely not) reflect his meaning(s) accurately.

The following are MY interpretations of what he said:

Humanity forms into communities/groups in order to feel comfortable. Each of these communities has rules/laws/guidelines as to how members of that community need to behave for acceptance. Each community decides how to deal with those who do not follow their rules/laws/guidelines. Each community is exclusive of all others, so one cannot be in more than one.

In HIS community, the LDS, homosexuality is a sin. However, he also points out that it is an understood condition of being human, as is the desire for extra-marital sex, and pre-marital sex, which are also sins (IN HIS COMMUNITY). Within his group, the sin is not in the desire and the feelings, but only in the expression of those feelings by actual acts. In other words, the desire for the sex is okay, including homosexual feelings, but the act of sex itself is the sin. Even then, anyone doing this (whether extra marital, homo, or pre marital) are to be treated with respect, while at the same time to be regarded as children, as they have not matured enough to overcome their urges with the strength of their faith.

He also recognizes that other communities have other rules/laws/guidelines and in order to be true to them, their members need to behave in ways appropriate to those groups.

Only when others are colored by the rules of his own group are they, or may they be, seen as sinners.

He believes that ultimately God will make the final judgement, and it is not for any of us on earth to make those judgements as to a person's worthiness. Even with sinners (defined as those in his own community) they can be 100% forgiven if they recognize their acts as sins, and change.

If I have misinterpreted, and quite possibly I have, I ask that you not flame me for it.

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Yes I think you are right Trab, but my post just before yours, is about the individual standing aside from his community and its faith, or at least attempting to adopt an objective position.

:abduct[1]:

PS I don't understand why anyone would flame you for such an intelligent, caring and interesting post. :raccoon:

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I know, Des. We must have been typing at the same time, two gay guys typing, on opposite sides of the globe, just to post at AD. Awesome, dude. (sorry, I can't help myself)

Yes, you took a completely different approach, and sadly, my post looks lost, now that it is after yours, which post, I might add, is probably better since it is addressing literary aspects in what is essentially a literary forum.

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I know, Des. We must have been typing at the same time, two gay guys typing, on opposite sides of the globe, just to post at AD. Awesome, dude. (sorry, I can't help myself)

Yes, you took a completely different approach, and sadly, my post looks lost, now that it is after yours, which post, I might add, is probably better since it is addressing literary aspects in what is essentially a literary forum.

Not at all Trab, Your post is both contributory in content and as an adjunct to mine. I steered clear of the subject you have so admirably stated, to avoid confusion in my post.

I see our posts as complimenting each other.

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Our first posts were complementing each other, and the subsequent ones are complimenting each other. We seem to be on a roll. :abduct[1]:

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Found and interesting interview with Card from about 8 years ago......

My favorite author, my worst interview

I worshiped militaristic Mormon science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card -- until we met.

By Donna Minkowitz, Solon.com

It was the most unpleasant interview I've ever done.

And one of the most instructive.

Science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card wrote one of my favorite books of all time. So when he came out with a sequel, I was delirious with the desire to interview him.

"Ender's Game," which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1985, is the best book I have ever read about violence. Who would have thought it would result in an interview in which I wanted to throttle the author? "Ender's Game" is also about loving your enemies, a goal so important to me that I wrote a book about it myself. How could I guess that interviewing the author would make me question that entire project?

A strangely empathic novel about 6-year-olds forced to be military commanders, "Ender's Game" brought together a fan base that might reasonably be expected to be at one another's throats (in some cases literally): progressives, children and soldiers. It was cherished by middle-schoolers and adults harrowed by child abuse; it was passed around by Gulf War bomb-droppers and used as a text by the Marines. And as for me, well, I'm a Jewish lesbian radical who wrote a book about what I have in common with the Christian right, so Card's paradoxes are right up my alley.

Card's hero, Ender, is an abused little boy being trained to fight alien enemies called the Buggers. His teachers have chosen him because he's compassionate enough to love (and hence to understand) his enemies, but ruthless and scared enough to wipe them off the face of the earth.

The sequel, "Ender's Shadow," is about another child who thinks he has to choose between love and survival. Its hero, Bean, is a starving toddler in a hellish future city where children fight each other for food. Bean eventually makes it into the Battle School where Ender's being taught to exterminate the Buggers.

I knew that Card, like his readership, was an outrageous hodgepodge. He writes strange, passionate books full of yearning but no sex and ardent little boys frisking around in zero gravity pretending to shoot each other. A devout Mormon, he is squeaky clean but adorably perverse and the author of a hit Mormon musical called "Barefoot to Zion," which celebrates the sesquicentennial of the entry of the Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley. (I wanted to get my hands on a copy of that musical, badly.)

But I'd somehow failed to ascertain that Card was a disgustingly outspoken homophobe. And given his book's brilliant, humane examination of the ethics of violence, I couldn't have predicted he'd be someone who thought it was dandy to bomb and massacre civilians.

Read more HERE

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Guys, gals, and assorted wildlife and AI's,

About all we can say together is that he is a paradox.

There will be people we care about or who we admire who are anywhere from mildly to extremely unaccepting of homosexuality.

Ultimately, like with other important beliefs, I think we have to take the good with the bad, in the people around us, and deal with them the best we can.

We can still lead by example, and perhaps change some minds.

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I've been working on a machine for years. :shock:

When it's done, I shall call it: The Hyper Super Duper Magnificent Insidious Subliminal Brainwashing Machine :shock:

Communitarianism is just another word for xenophobic fascism.

anyway, here's a quote:

I like your Christ.

I do not like your Christians.

Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

-Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

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